We met in graduate school thirty-seven years ago. Our backgrounds were different, as were our personalities and many of our preferences. Our friendship was built on a shared love of learning, a commitment to personal growth, and a deep curiosity. We spent out time together in conversation. Long talks, deep and intense, across a wide range of topics. We talked about the books we'd read, the authors and thinking that had an impact, along with what was going on in our lives.
In the early years our children, the challenge and joy of relationships, and our developing careers were part of our stories. But always, it was the conversations that mattered, the glue that kept us connected. We seldom went out - dining, movies, shopping, entertainment - weren't what we did together. One time, strong in both our memories, we spent an entire day in early spring sitting on lawn chairs just talking. We simply moved the chairs to follow the sun. It was pure pleasure. We did travel, to places like Esalen, New Mexico, deep into the Ecuadorean Amazon jungle, and to workshops and retreats that fed our curiosity and hunger to learn which, in turn, provided more to talk about.
Over the decades our children grew up, relationships ended and new ones began. Successful careers enabled much. We kept learning and growing. And at one point, late in our careers, we were able to work together, and that was a joy. We created something together than was larger and better than each of us could have achieved alone. And we kept talking.
But change continued, as it always does. We both moved away, pursuing different chapters in our lives. And our times together became less frequent. Sometimes long periods would go by without contact. But the strength and draw of those conversations remained important to us and we sought a solution. So every other week, at a prearranged time, one of us calls the other and we settle down for a feast of rich conversation lasting an hour or more.
Recently I went to stay with my friend at her home in the country. Her home is beautiful, situated in lovely rolling countryside. She and her husband have created special places throughout the property. Passing through grasses, a small grove of trees, and up a hill, they found the perfect spot to build a labyrinth. Modelled on the one in Chartres Cathedral, it's comprised of eleven concentric rings split into four parts, creating a path which leads from the outside to the inside passing once over every track. The journey to the centre is a slow and contemplative one, and you remain in the centre of the circle with your thoughts and reflections for as long as you wish before retracing your steps to reenter the world. To walk a labyrinth is a spiritual experience. We walked that labyrinth, in silence, delighted to be there together.
We woke to the crowing of roosters on a nearby farm. We ate simple nutritious food, we spent time together, and the days went peacefully by. There was beauty everywhere.
The conversations, as always, had strength and meaning. It wasn't that we had to catch up or reconnect - that was always there - but we both experienced a deep pleasure in seeing each other and simply being together. The telephone had kept our friendship from slowly fading away but at the end of our time together we knew it was important to see each other on a regular basis. And we'll now make sure that happens.
The gift of deep friendship, the joy of real conversation, and delightful time in the country. Life is rich and full. I am so grateful.